Welcome everyone to the Deck Spotlight series, where we are going to explore top-tier, meta defining decks and give some left field brews a deserved glance. In this article we will be exploring Midrange Assassin, one of the most by-the-book midrange decks in Elder Scrolls: Legends. This deck provides a powerful curve and is one of the more tempo-orientated strategies, while still being able to burst with both burn and Charge creatures. Now in general, Midrange Intelligence decks are on the outside looking in, but this deck still holds its own in the current metagame.
Midrange Assassin is a deck that utilizes a strong curve while still being flexible and having many answers. One of the coolest things about Midrange Assassin is that the deck doesn’t have any really bad matchups. It has some that are unfavored, but for the most part this deck has winning lines against all of the field. This deck’s mortal enemy is Ice Storm, so stuff like Control Mage can be bad on occasion, but we’ll get more into that later. The reason this deck has no real poor matchups is because of the strength of its core cards. If left alone, and allowed to curve 1-6, this deck is extremely powerful. A high value curve of Goblin Skulk into Daggerfall Mage into Murkwater Shaman is just one possibility. There are also aggro draws including Mournhold Traitor, and controlling draws including Shrieking Harpies and Blacksap Protectors. The ability to have a variety of answers while still maintaining board pressure is one of Assassin’s great strengths.
In addition, a lot of these cards are tempo orientated, with medium floors and high ceilings. Midrange Assassin has a nice bob-and-weave playstyle where all of your cards have powerful effects stapled to them, so if your opponent answers most of your stuff with 1-for-1 removal spells you are still pulling ahead in value. And for the cards that aren’t built for tempo, they are still efficient enough in what they do or provide a big enough body for their cost. Blacksap Protector isn’t very good on the tempo side of things, but as a 3/3 for three magicka with Guard its not too bad, and with Prophecy its only trending upwards. So if a Wardcrafter gives its Ward away to another creature and gets Firebolted, its still good on value. Or if a Murkwater Shaman gets one or two Curses before it gets Lightning Bolted, that’s still good value. Or in the case of Leaflurker or Shearpoint Dragon which have conditional removal spells on their Summon they can generate a huge amount of value if they are still removed quickly. And not to mention my personal touch, Wild Beastcaller.
In the dawn of Supreme Atromancer being nerfed, most Midrange Intelligence decks were left in a pickle. Left in an adapt or die world, Midrange Sorcerer moved onto Bone Colossus to fill the Supreme Atromancer slot. But what does Midrange Assassin have? There aren’t many seven-plus magicka creatures that fill the void of Supreme Atromancer. But after my testing, I would say Wild Beastcaller is the closest Midrange Assassin can come to a replacement. Its not a perfect fit, but its the best we have. In said testing, Wild Beastcaller is powerful in the same matchups that Supreme Atromancer is powerful in (Ramp Scout, Control decks, Intelligence mirrors, and to a lesser extent Control Mage) and provides an avenue to close out against aggressive decks.
The main issue with Wild Beastcaller is that it has the word “random” in its text box, and therefor can’t be counted on to reliably do what you want it to. At a base level, a six magicka 3/4 isn’t very good, and at worst it can summon an Enraged Mudcrab. So a 3/4 and a 2/1, so 5 power and 5 toughness for six magicka is… only ok. Against Scout that base level still has some redeeming factors simply because Scout struggles against wide boards. However, Wild Beastcaller has some insane potential with both Swamp Leviathan and Senche-Tiger. As well as being strong in the same matchups Supreme Atromancer was strong in, Wild Beastcaller can also help in aggro matchups. While it isn’t consistent and shouldn’t be relied on, simple hits like Giant Bat and Barded Guar can help a ton versus aggressive matchups. Where Supreme Atromancer was “Ten magicka – end the game next turn” versus aggro decks, Wild Beastcaller can (if lucky) have far more play to it than that.
The other change I’ve made to the deck was fairly little, only swapping Thieves Guild Recruit for Gloomlurker. Without Supreme Atromancers, this deck only runs two cards that cost over seven magicka, and while the cantrip is nice, it isn’t enough. Gloomlurker has impressed me a lot in my Goblins deck, and while it isn’t spectacular I still like it in Midrange Assassin. It is an aggressive creature with a summon effect, and still maintains a non-zero amount of value with Prophecy. While Prophecy doesn’t exactly equate to drawing a card, it is still worth a lot of value. As it is fairly fragile, and its summon effect isn’t super busted, I’m only running two copies.
Other cards that interest me are Eclipse Baroness, Thief of Dreams, Moonlight Werebat, Brynjolf, and Thieves Guild Fence. Eclipse Baroness is probably the most interesting of these, and if I were to cut the Wild Beastcallers I would slot her in for sure. Thief of Dreams would be nice, however this deck runs enough 5+ cost creatures and with the chance of this whiffing I’ll continue on without it. Brynjolf and Moonlight Werebat would come in tandem, perhaps with Daring Cutpurse replacing my Gloomlurkers. This would provide an even more tempo orientated list with superpowered draws, probably looking like this. My issue with this is that it removes a little bit of the consistency and would end up shaving some of the standard Midrange Assassin-y stuff, so I’ll pass. The final card to consider is Thieves Guild Fence. This card hasn’t done much since its been released, and I’m sure that if there’s a home for it it would be in an Assassin shell. That being said, this deck doesn’t actually draw that many cards. Goblin Skulk already draws 0-magicka cards, and Daggerfall Mage has its hoops you must jump through in order to draw cards, so Thieves Guild Fence looks fairly underwhelming to me.
As stated earlier, this deck doesn’t really have any bad matchups.
Its unfavorable matchups include decks with Ice Storm, primarily Control Mage. Ice Storm doesn’t shut you out like it does to Tokens, but it usually kills enough of your creatures to make stabilizing easy. While facing Ice Storm decks, you have to keep in mind how much you could get blown out by Ice Storm at all times. Now, the premise of the Control Mage matchup is super draw-dependent. If they don’t draw Ice Storm on time, its probably 50/50. Additionally, if you manage to either curve properly or draw all your Cliff Racers, Wild Beastcallers and Ancano you become favored in the games.
Other 50/50 matchups include Ramp Scout and Midrange Archer. Ramp Scout is an incredibly easy matchup if you play Mournhold Traitor on two, and curve from there. Without Mournhold Traitor, you mainly want to be as aggressive as possible and try and curve as best as you can. Their key cards in the matchup are Shearpoint Dragon and Woodland Lookout, as well as their 12 cost Dragons. Because my Midrange Assassin list runs no Move cards, getting bogged down by Guards can also be fairly bad for you.
Midrange Archer is essentially a curve-off, with whoever manages to curve harder wins. They generally have more card draw than you do, so you have to play the tempo game to gain advantages. Aggressive/Tokens matchups can be tricky, but if you start off with Goblin Skulk, or draw natural Curses and back it up with reasonable board pressure, you should be good to go.
Orcs is usually tougher with their more resilient creatures, but they are slower than most aggro decks so they usually give you more breathing room. Queen Barenziah is a lifesaver in these games, providing Guard, Drain, and enough power to race the onslaught of tokens. Shearpoint Dragon, Ancano and Wild Beastcaller are your ideal finishers against aggressive decks, but Cliff Racer and Tazkad the Packmaster both do fine.
This deck’s good matchups are the slower decks in the format.
Midrange Assassin still retains its power to beat up on Control decks, and with the look of the September Monthly Card, Control Spellsword is a very good matchup. Ramp Warrior and similar Ramp or Unstoppable Rage strategies are favored for Midrange Assassin, as long as they don’t get a really good Rage against you. Assassin’s creatures aren’t the biggest, so one huge Unstoppable Rage could be lights out. While this deck has no way to interact with Hist Grove or other Supports, you instead need to kill them before Hist Grove pops. While that’s easier said than done, Cliff Racer, Tazkad, Ancano and a good Wild Beastcaller help a lot at ending the game quickly. Other Midrange decks remain favored, as your curve is generally better and your finishers are more deadly. Additionally, Assassin’s burst is greater than most decks, only being beat by Battlemage.
Midrange Sorcerer is the hardest of the Intelligence mirrors, as they also have a powerful curve backed by a good late game, especially if they run Ice Storm. In order to defeat Midrange Sorcerer, you need to either curve along side them or go full aggro and hope they miss on all their Runes/Prophecies as your end game threats can come out of nowhere with no setup.
One of Midrange Assassin’s best matchups is all forms of Monk. Both Pilfer and Control Monk are heavily unfavored against you. You have enough removal to keep Pilfer Monk from snowballing out of control, and you have enough pressure to keep Control Monk from stabilizing. Monk’s best chance verses you is with a Tokens strategy, but as noted earlier that is still favored on your side if you scrounge up enough removal and back it up with a good board.
I’ve tried to make a Midrange Assassin deck that I would like for many months now, and up until now I’ve had no luck. Either being too tempo-y or too finisher reliant, nothing’s ever stuck. At the start of September, I thought I would give Assassin another go, just to do some light testing as to what Midrange Intelligence decks looked like once the Supreme Atromancer nerfs have settled in. I immediately had some great results, and with some more testing and tweaking I got some very impressive results. Unless we get some more balance changes or card for Assassin in October, this is the list I have settled on. Midrange Assassin will remain in my holster for the foreseeable future, as queuing up into the ladder with this deck feels so smooth. No deck feels unbeatable and no match feels unwinnable. Ice Storm is this deck’s number one enemy, with number two being Hist Grove, but those cards can be played around or adapted to so that Assassin still has a path to victory. Plus, if your opponent plays Hist Grove on turn three I always feel really good, because that just gives you another turn to develop your board and get closer and closer to snowballing. The future of this deck is very interesting to me because if Control/Ramp decks become more popular this deck’s viability could rise a bunch, and even reach top-tier status. This deck hasn’t actually had any additions since Heroes of Skyrim, and has actually been nerfed since then, but hasn’t moved down that much in the overall metagame. If the meta stays where it is, Midrange Assassin will probably remain just outside of the top echelon of decks.
As usual, hit me up on Twitter if you have any comments or suggestions. This has been September’s final Deck Spotlight Series, thank you all for reading.